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San Diego’s players will earn college credit during trip to Italy

Aug 8, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

Bill Grier Bill Grier

With the NCAA allowing college programs to take an international trip once every four years, basketball teams can get a head start on the upcoming season. Returnees can get used to new roles, newcomers can get used to an entirely new system and the coaching staff can tinker with lineups in hopes of figuring out their best rotation ahead of the official start of practice.

The focus tends to be on the athletic gains to be made, with a mere nod to the chance to experience a country the players may not have had the opportunity to visit without the aid of an athletic scholarship. But a few schools have looked to make sure their players benefit from an educational standpoint as well, with San Diego being the latest to do so.

The Toreros head to Italy on August 12 and thanks in part to Theology and Religious Studies Professor Florence Gillman, head coach Bill Grier and his staff were able to put together a curriculum that will include a final exam that they’ll take on August 22. In order to prepare for the trip players have taken a summer course taught by Prof. Gillman on Early Christianity, and while in Italy they’ll be asked to chronicle their travels via photos and a journal.

Players may have been inclined to do those things without being required to do so, especially the taking pictures part. But San Diego’s players will be able to earn college credit for it, allowing them to participate in the study abroad program that many student-athletes miss out on because of athletic obligations.

“By providing our student-athletes the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs, we are expanding the reach of international education in a way that often gets overlooked on college campuses,” said Kira Espiritu, director of USD’s undergraduate study abroad program. “Usually, when people think of underrepresented populations, they think of first-generation college students or see it from a financial perspective. In this case, the underrepresented are an athletics team.”

From a basketball standpoint San Diego, which finished the 2013-14 season with a 18-17 record (7-11 WCC) and reached the quarterfinals of the CIT, returns one of the WCC’s best backcourts in seniors Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee and junior Duda Sanadze. However the Toreros will have to account for the loss of Dennis Kramer, who averaged 11.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

With Kramer the Toreros struggled on the glass, ranking seventh in the WCC in defensive rebounding percentage and ninth in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage. The games will help USD as they look to account for the graduation of their best rebounder.